Drought and Wind to Bring Fire, Dust Storm Threat to Plains Thursday

By Jordan Root, Meteorologist
March 21, 2014; 4:16 AM ET
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Story written by Jordan Root, AccuWeather.com Meteorologist

Folks in the Plains will need to be extra cautious Thursday as the region will be under a high fire and dust storm threat.

Strong winds, dry air, and widespread drought will lead to a high risk for fires across New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Strong southerly winds are expected to rip across the region during the day with gusts up to 40 mph possible. These winds will bring a surge of warm air with them.

Although the West has been the focal point of drought talk this year, another area of drought is on-going across the central United States.

Nebraska to Texas has experienced an abnormally dry winter which has forced moderate to exceptional drought conditions on folks.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Oklahoma City is listed under a moderate drought. Precipitation in the city since January is running over 3 inches below normal.

The lack of precipitation has left the ground dry and has made the area a prime spot for fires and wind-blown dust.

The region will remain moisture-starved Thursday as dry air continues to pump into the region due to high pressure.

Relative humidity, a variable that can be used to measure the amount of moisture in the air, is expected to be dangerously low. Values may drop into the teens for some areas, a value ripe for fires to quickly develop and spread.

Fire won't be the only threat Thursday, wind-blown dust will be an issue as well.

Lowered visibility due to blowing dust will hinder motorists who may be caught driving in it. Dust storms are known to lower visibility to near zero, as was experienced across Texas on Tuesday.

Extra caution should be used by people if caught in a dust storm while driving. Travel delays should be expected.

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Health problems will increase as well. Eye irritation is common due to dust particles flying through the air.

Also, residents with respiratory problems will be affected by the increased amount of blowing dust. Staying inside and closing all doors and windows will help alleviate some of the problems.

Drought-relief seems unlikely in the near future as dry conditions are expected to continue at least until the weekend.


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